Charlotte Andrew is the engagement manager at Three Circles Fostering. She established lgbtyouthincare.com and works nationwide with community groups to support, raise awareness and advise on best practice supporting lgbt+ youth in care. Charlotte has written this blog as an insight into fostering children and young people in the lgbt+ community during lockdown.
What did young people do before lockdown? A heck of a lot more than they are doing now that’s for sure. For lgbt+ young people in care the stakes are even higher, it is widely known that the health outcomes (including mental health) of lgbt+ people are far worse than their peers on any given ‘normal’ day. For that reason it’s more important than ever to be having conversations about how we can better support marginalised groups during this pandemic.
There are a number of things we should consider in terms of how the lockdown could impact lgbt+ children in care. Firstly, isolation and loneliness. Are they suddenly separated from their support network? Can you help them access this remotely? These are factors that must be explored in order to encourage positive mental health during the lockdown. Secondly, are they still given opportunities to celebrate their identity? Can efforts be made to make this a part of daily, or even weekly routine? Finally, even if the young person claims to hate it, don’t underestimate the loss of school! Keep in mind that a loss of routine when it comes to socialising will inevitably lead to an increase in screen time. It’s important that what is being accessed online helps to promote a positive mindset.
As a member of the lgbt+ community myself, I understand just how important it is to stay connected with people from the lgbt+ community. Since the virus took hold, it has been empowering to see the response from community organisations moving their operations online. There are countless groups who work with lgbt+ young people nationwide now offering support packages digitally: from 1:1 sessions, virtual prides, mindful meditation sessions, to digital youth groups (to name a few of the activities on offer).
An lgbt+ youth organisation in the North West called The Proud Trust has established the ‘Ireland, UK and The Islands LGBT+ Youth Work Network’ in response to Covid - 19. This network lists 18 support services across the UK offering support to young people, literally right now. Each site has its own diary of events that you can signpost young people to https://www.theproudtrust.org/for-young-people/advice-and-support/were-here-for-you/
You may be worried about making sure that what is accessed online is safe, the government has put together a useful resource bank to help you as carers to promote online safety, and also where to go for advice.
Furthermore, it is important to reiterate to young people during the lockdown that there are a number of people in their support network who they can contact, such as: their social worker, an advocate, or their independent reviewing officer (IRO) should they wish to.
Do you want some more information about supporting lgbt+ youth in care? Head over to lgbtyouthincare.com and check out some of the videos and resources. When we established lgbt youth in care as a resource a few years ago we were dreaming of a world where everyone is accepted for who they are and who they wish to be. It now seems more necessary than ever, in such a rapidly changing world, that we are looking out for one another.